It’s been a week since I finished watching Indian Matchmaking on Netflix. But the words “Hi, I’m Sima from Mumbai” are still ringing in my ears. All courtesy Sima Taparia, or Sima Aunty as everyone addresses her, the poster child and lone protagonist of the eight-part web series that follows her shuttling between India and the US to arrange marriages between desi men and women.

Her efforts of playing cupid have yielded a phenomenal response from the audience – there are fan pages dedicated to her, a million memes made out of her golden words, her face is plastered on social media – she is clearly the woman of the moment. But who exactly is Sima Taparia?

“Born Matchmaker”

As the show tells us, Sima Taparia is a Mumbai-based matchmaker. She owns a marriage bureau called Suitable Rishta, with a five-member team, that operates out of her residence in Worli, Mumbai. Her job profile relays that she chiefly deals with traditional Indian arranged marriages that “God has given me the job to make successful on Earth,” in her own words. And in her long career, Taparia, who considers herself a “born matchmaker,” has brought a large number of couples together, both in India as well as NRIs.

Also Read: A girl’s dreams shouldn’t end with marriage. I learnt it the hard way.

Taparia, who grew up in Gulbarga, Karnataka, was married at the young age of 19 to industrialist Anup Taparia. Since hers too was an arranged marriage, she is a strong believer in the institution, which, she expresses in the show, is a far smoother and more successful process than the girl-chooses-boy love marriage culture that causes marriages “to break like biscuits” today.

She always had big ambitions for herself, but wasn’t allowed to pursue them since her in-laws were orthodox Marwaris, she told Condé Nast Traveller in an interview. Today, especially with the blaring success of Indian Matchmaking, she is living her dreams, and how! Taparia has previously appeared in a 2017 documentary A Suitable Girl, where she played matchmaker for her own daughter.

So How Does Taparia’s Matchmaking Business Function?

Taparia maintains that all of her business is solely based on word-of-mouth publicity. “I have never advertised my services anywhere. All my clients come from people I have met socially or from other satisfied clients,” she says. Her site, Suitable Rishta mentions that Taparia has a vast social network that she employs to match people. The site claims that “Finding the relation with an unknown person is her passion which she does… in flat three minutes!!!”

Also Read: Thappad Challenges Our Gaze Towards Indian Marriages

Her approach is simple, and as traditional as arranged marriage structures get. As a middlewoman, Taparia, as she claims in the show and as is mentioned on her site, visits the home of her clients, judges their “living style”, “business details”, background, etc., and asks the prospective bride/groom about their expectations from a life partner. Then, when the parameters are met, she gets them to meet a possible match.

Taparia doesn’t just stop at matchmaking. Suitable Rishta is responsible from start to finish of the wedding, and “help the families to come closer and arrange all pre-wedding and wedding functions go smoothly. From wedding cards to bidai is all planned.”

How Does Taparia Charge Her Clients?

Ever since the Netflix show released, social media has been aflame with viewers debating how much Sima Taparia charges for her services. Evidently, the cost would be no paltry sum, since Taparia’s clients are all upper-class, rich urban suitors. The matchmaker reveals, “I only work with high-profile clients. In India when I meet clients they usually have a working wedding budget in mind. So based on that golden number, I quote my price that I charge as a lump sum.”

Even though Taparia primarily works alone, in the show she is seen consulting face readers and astrologers, which are important players in traditional Indian matchmaking businesses for matching kundlis and the couple’s futures. Taparia visits Janardhan Dhurbe, a face reader who looks at photos of her clients and describes their character traits with seeming accuracy. And then there’s also Sushil ji, a Bengali astrologer, who tells Taparia whether the couple she has brought together is “cosmically” a good match or not.

Also Read: Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking: A Show That Makes Regressive Cultural Practices Seem Exotic

“Slim, Trim, Educated”

Taparia’s show, directed by Smriti Mundhra, has also been receiving criticism for glorifying the arranged marriage culture, that works upon problematic social features such as caste, class, fair/dark skin, body size, etc. More than once in the show, Taparia herself has been accused of boosting them, by passing comments on her clients like, “Aparna’s mind is not stable,” or “Ankita is not photogenic.”

Her infamous dialogue, and the title of the first episode of Indian Matchmaking, “Slim, Trim and Educated” forms the broad base of her clients’ top preferences. While Taparia has received a lot of flak for propagating such stereotypical checklists, especially when it comes to women, she defends it saying, “But who doesn’t want a fair, beautiful wife, you tell me?” Now whether this reinforces age-old stereotypes or merely shows us the true picture of arranged marriages in India, is for audiences to decide.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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